Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Are you sitting comfortably?

Employees need to be comfortable in the workplace but how far must their employers go to accommodate their needs?

Gemma Workman from Martin-Kaye Solicitors, in Euston Way, Telford, said employers should tread carefully when it comes to decisions about office furniture.

“Modern office chairs can be adjusted to accommodate a wide range of shapes and sizes, and they also come in different dimensions for both extra tall and smaller staff.

“But what if an employee would prefer to bring in their own seating because they found it more comfortable? In particular, how should an employer react if the choice isn’t a traditional chair?

“If your staff work with a computer, their seating will be subject to health and safety regulations which set out certain requirements that standard chairs must have, including a height-adjustable seat and a backrest that can be adjusted for both height and tilt.

“Chairs must also be physically stable and allow for freedom of movement, but national guidance also says employers should consider the possibility of staff using unconventional chairs too.

“It says that employees suffering from back problems may benefit from a chair that comes with a fixed backrest or a seat that has no backrest at all, such as a kneeling chair. But whatever they choose, it must still be stable on the floor.

“This means employees will not be able to use exercise balls as seating for example, as although they can help strengthen core muscles, it’s too easy for an employee to fall off and hurt themselves.”

Miss Workman said before agreeing to anything, employers should find out exactly why their staff may want to bring in their own seating.

“Is their current chair uncomfortable because it’s broken or because they are not a standard size? If so, then this is easily put right by ordering them a new chair. Or maybe the employee uses non-conventional seating at home and finds it more to their liking?

“If their request is purely down to personal choice, you should think carefully before giving them the go-ahead because it will make it very difficult to refuse any requests from other staff in the future.”

Miss Workman said there may be some merit in the request if the employee has a pre-existing medical condition, or if they’re recovering from a back or hip injury.

“But you should ask for a full assessment from an occupational health advisor before you say yes, and then providing their chosen chair is suitable, you can allow them to bring it in to the workplace.”